The Thai protest-backing general, ‘Seh Daeng’, died today, from a sniper shot to the head he suffered while being interview by the New York Times. Street battles continue to rage, with a firefight last night at the Dusit Thani hotel remarkably described in quite detail via twitter by the war reporter Michael Yon.From what I read of his last night, Mr. Yon must be an amazing war correspondent when in Afghanistan.
Monday and Tuesday have been declared holidays and the Thai government has warned protesters that any remaining within their main ‘Ratchprasong’ central bangkok base after 3pm today will be subject to 2 years in prison. NGOs and other organisations are also trying get women protesters and their children out of the protest area. Problem is, many don’t want to leave and have instead set up a refuge in a temple within the protesters’ zone.
Unfortunately, he’ll probably have a lot more to report
It’s been a horrific situation so far, but unfortunately I expect the crackdown to intensify within the next two days. In response, the retaliation from the red shirt protesters could easily intensify as well as increasing numbers of protesters are pushed into radical violent behaviour after seeing their fellows shot and killed.
There are only a few ways for the country to avoid a complete bloodbath. One involves the current government accepting the latest offer from the protesters for a ceasefire and UN involvement, which the government has unfortunately rejected. This probably seems like the simplest and most logical solution to most outside observers. In a perfect world it would be possible. The unfortunate thing is that the current established military and political forces in Thailand probably see themselves losing power under any internationally-observed political arrangement. Thus they’d rather keep this a ‘domestic issue’ and have incited sovereignty fears in order to deflect the Thai public from what would most likely be the most peaceful solution.
Another solution of course is for the protest leaders to simply give up immediately and tell their supporters to stand-down. Problem is, the chance of them doing this is slim since they would likely be immediately imprisoned for what could be a very long time due to extremely serious charges already laid against them. Their lives would also be in grave danger, for they’d be exposed to assassination attempts once separated from their crowds of supporters. Backers of the redshirts, which include hidden sympathetic military leaders and most visibly the ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, might also want to continue the struggle since they’ll also all face punishment at the hands of a victorious government. Nobody trusts the legal system to be transparent anymore. New hard-line red shirts may also simply emerge and take over from those who quit.
Thirdly, is for some sort of back-room deal to be struck between the established powers and opposition leaders including the Thaksin Shinawatra (who was ousted in a 2006 coup, and who while not an official leader of the movement, still has substantial influence over the protesters and is at the very least a major backer), whereby both sides accommodate some of the others demands and promise not to come after each others throats in future years. I believe this is the most likely potential peaceful exit from the crisis, but still think it is highly unlikely.
The most likely path is for little dialogue, the barring of foreign oversight, and an extremely hard crackdown on the protesters which most middle and upper class Bangkok residents will welcome as necessary.
Why shooting protesters won’t ‘work’ this time for Thailand
Without getting into what or what isn’t necessary or who’s ‘right’, my fear is that this hard crackdown won’t ‘work’ like it has in the past for Thailand (1992, 1976). The current protest movement is huge, passionate, and sophisticated. This has been shown by their logistics capability whereby the central protest zone has built its own infrastructure including television and radio broadcast facilities plus power generation, defence, and food supplies. Also, technology these days is such that you can’t blind people and hide things as you could in the past. Any crackdown will be very visible no matter what censorship is involved. Already there has been coordinated insurrection in the provinces, blocking army convoys, reportedly blocking the entrance to Thailand’s main port, plus sympathy rallies in many places outside Bangkok. It’s widely know that there is substantial ‘red shirt’ support in Thailand’s large North and Northeast regions. Red shirts in these regions have pledged retaliation for any major crackdown.
Yet, to me, the most striking development in the last two days has been the erection of a second protest base, near the ‘Klong Toey’ slums right after the government sealed the main ‘Ratchprasong’ rally point from direct outside access.
This second staging point has been reported by some as having at least 2,000 people, plus substantial water, food, and power generation supplies set up. All within about two days.
This to me speaks to the widespread strength of the ‘red shirts’ and casts serious doubts as to whether a crackdown will succeed in destroying their will. If anything, the worry is that it will cause them to revolt even harder, with even harder methods than they’ve already used. It’s in nobody’s interests to have random bombs detonating in Bangkok over the next five years. Thus negotiation, not a crackdown, is the only successful long-term solution, for both sides.
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